Archived Story

Journeymen commended for returning warmth to area homes

Published 3:58pm Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cold winds swept across the private pond on Melrose Mountain and the walls of the little house shook. Then came the darkness. Somewhere, a tree had fallen, and the cottage’s electric heat went silent as all the lights went out.
One frantic phone call to Duke Power resulted in immediate response. The power company had four station outages for 73 residents in this area.
Time had come to find some candles and flashlights and fire up the little propane wall heater. The down quilts got pulled from the storage bin. It sure would be a good night to own a woodstove.
Somewhere in this county, the linemen rose from their beds. Maybe one kissed his wife, another looked fondly at his sleeping children, a third brewed a cup of coffee and gulped it down before hitting the road.
These workers got into their trucks and their cars in the crisp winter air and drove through the cutting winds in the dark. They figured out the puzzle of how to fix what the wind and the trees had broken.
Crew members take chainsaws to the downed trees and they scamper up the poles, rethreading wires. They use the strength of their bodies and the brilliance of their brains to bring light and heat to strangers’ homes, and possibly to the homes of friends and family, too.
All winter long, these workers walk into the cold and fix what’s broken. All year long, they work under extreme pressure to get things done well and fast so that no one has to live without electricity. They do all the work from the power plant to the meter. Sometimes they climb up to 300 feet and other times they walk deep into underground trenches.
Duke Power coordinates crews to cover a wide territory. On a single day on one recent week, 108 stations in this coverage area were without power. The crews repair transmission lines, substation equipment, main distribution lines, local tap lines and lines to individual homes.
Journeyman linemen need toughness and grit.
Sometimes they operate heavy equipment, including aerial lifts, backhoes, dump trucks, pullers, cranes, digger derricks, and tensioners. They climb electrical poles and towers and to get the job done. They work year-round, in every kind of weather.
Lights and warmth have returned to this cottage. Sipping a cup of hot, freshly brewed Earl Gray tea with milk while looking through the window at the ice floes on my pond, it’s time to give deep thanks for the men and women who brave the elements to keep us all safe and warm.

- Kiesa Kay, reporter Tryon Daily Bulletin

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